Too close for comfort, damaged freighter feeds protests

Too close for comfort, damaged freighter feeds protests

A cargo vessel traveling through the Douglas Channel was involved in a crash last Friday.

This was confirmed by Transport Canada, although there has been no official report released. The vessel ran aground southwest of Kitimat and returned to the Northwest city immediately after it was determined that there was no pollution or leaks associated with the ship’s accident.

“A dive team has assessed the damage on the ship and Transport Canada has inspected the vessel,” confirmed Transport Canada communications officer, Rod Nelson.

Nelson said that the federal Transportation Safety Board would be investigating the accident to search for any violations to the Canada Marine Act. The Petersfield has been cleared to sail to Vancouver for repairs by the federal department because it is considered safe to do so. It has a speed restriction and will be accompanied by a tugboat escort.

Once in Vancouver, marine inspectors will investigate the ship to determine if it’s seaworthy to operate normally at full speed. The most visible damage associated with the accident was to the ship’s bow, which was scrunched up near the bottom of the vessel. However, the incident is also being pounced upon as a point of reference for those that oppose oil tanker traffic on the North Coast.

Projects proposed for Kitimat port, to bring bitumen oil to the North Coast from Alberta, have received less than favorable public opinion returns from First Nations communities and others. Gerald Amos is a Kitimaat Village Councillor for the Haisla Nation. He said that regardless of the amount of incidents that
occur in the channel, the Petersfield incident proved that navigating through the waters was not only a challenge, but irresponsible as well.

“Whether or not it is a freak occurrence or not, the point is that it happens,” said Amos who is also a former fisherman and Friends of Wild Salmon.

“Human error and mechanical failure happen on all boats - it’s happened on my gillnetter.” Skeena-Bulkey MP Nathan Cullen echoed Amos’ sentiments that these accidents happen and that it was risk British Columbians do not want to take. He suggested that the North Coast had dodged a bullet.

“This is why we believe that a public inquiry needs to be called on oil traffic on the coast,” said Cullen. “The Conservatives want to rubber stamp this. The provincial government is saying that they are the ones that are going to make oil drilling and tankers a reality. There is no chance that we are going to get a fair
hearing with the way the process is right now.”

Amos claimed that the Kitimaat Village council had been told that it was a catastrophic failure of the steering system, but this has not been confirmed.

At the time of the incident, according to Nelson, the ship was carrying lumber products, but none of the products had spilled into the channel, nor were any leaks found.

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